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5. Because God worketh miracles in religion as well as in nature; and because no man hath a sufficient knowledge of the nature of God's perfections to enable him to affirm that a miracle cannot, or ought not to be wrought in behalf of such a sinner. 6. Because we cannot find, that
your pastors have
authority from their bibles to say to a penitent sinner, at any time, there is no more hope for thee; thou hast exhausted the mercy of God; thou art gotten to that period, in which we have no other morality to preach than this, he that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still, Rev. xxii. 11. On the contrary, all the directions in the holy scriptures, that relate to the exercise of our ministry, engage us to pray for a sinner, as long as he hath a spark of life; to endeavour to convince him as long as he is capable of reasoning; and, till he is past feeling the force of motives to conversion, to do every thing, that is in our power, to convert him. But doth not all this conduct suppose that which we have been endeavouring 10 prove? that is, that to what degree soever a sinner may have carried his sin, how long soever he may have lived in it, there will always be a sufficiency of pardon, where there is a certainty of conversion ; agreeably to the gospel that we preached to you on the last Lord's-day, Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near : Let the wicked forsahe his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him: and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon : For my thoughts of grace and mercy must not be measured by the ideas of the finest reasoning powers; much less by those of a gloomy desponding mind, muy thoughts are not your thoughts,' neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord : For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. This was the gospel of last Lord's-day.
The gospel of this day is, our Godisa consunting fire. But these two gospels entirely agree, and our endeavours to come fort you, after you have deferred your conversion to a deathhed, are not inconsistent with our endeavours to terrify and alarm you, when we perceive that you obstinately determine to defer your repentance to that time. Moreover, the same reasons, which prevail with us to comfort you in that sad pe
tiod, prevail with us to give you a salutary alarm before the fatal moment comes.
It is true, God's thoughts are not our thoughts; and it is possible that the approach of death may make deeper impress sions on you, than either sermons or pious books have made ; But yet our God is a consuming fire. What a time is a dying illness for the receiving of such impressions! I omit those sudden and unexpected deaths, of which we have so many yearly, or rather daily examples. I omit the sudden deaths of those; who, while we were conversing and transacting business with them, were seized with violent pains, turned pale, and died, and were instantly stretched on a bier. I pass those who went to bed healthy and well, who quietly fell asleep, and whom we have found in the morning dead and cold. All these inelancholy examples we omit, for one would imagine, considering your conduct, and hearing your conversation, that each of you had received a revelation to assure him of an exemption from sudden death. But what a time is a dying illness for a renovation and conversion ! Would not one suppose, that those, who hope to be converted then, have always lived among immortals, and have neither heard of death, nor seen a person die? Ah! What obstacles ! What a world of obstacles oppose such extravagant hopes, and justify the efforts of those who endeavour to destroy them! Here, is business, that must be settled ; a will, which must be made ; a number of articles that inust be discussed : there, are friends, who must be embraced; relations that must be dissolved ; children, who must be torn away; the soul must be writhen and rent and riven asunder with sighs and adieus. Here, arise frightful ideas of death, which have never entered the mind but amidst numberless hurries of necessary business, or countless objects of deceitful pleasures; ideas of a death, that hath been always considered at a distance, though so many voices have announced its approach ; but the approach of which now astonishes, benumbs, and renders notionless: There, the illness increaseth, pains multiply, agonies convulse, the whole soul, full of intolerable sensations, loseth the power of seeing and hearing, thinking and reflecting. Here, are medicines more intolerable than the malady, operations more violent than the agonies which they are designed to allay: There, conscience, for the first time, enlightened, awaked, and alarmed, solls in tides of remorse: the terrible remembrance of a life
spenc spent in sin; an army of irrefragable witnesses, from all parts arising, prove the guilt, and denounce a sentence of death, on the departing soul. See now, whether this first reflection, which authorizeth our endeavours to comfort and invigorate your souls, when you have deferred your conversion to your last hour, be inconsistent with those which we úse to terrify and alarm you, when you obstinately put off your repentance to that tiine ?
It is true, God's thoughts are not our thoughts, and we have neither a sufficient knowledge of other people's hearts, not of our own, to affirın with certainty when their faculties are entirely contaminated : But yet, our God is a consuming fire. We know men, to whom the truth is become unintelligible, in consequence of the disguise in which they have taken the pains to clothe it; and who have accustomed themselves to palliate vice, till they are become incapable of perceiving its turpitude.
God's Thoughts are not our thoughts, it is true; and we have seen some examples of people, who have proved, since their recovery, that they were truly converted in sickness; and on whose account we presume that others may possibly be converted by the same mean: Büt yet our God is a consuming fire. How rare are these examples! Doth this require proof? Must we demonstrate it? You are our proofs : you, yourselves, are our demonstrations, (I speak of those who are of mature age) Who of you hath not been sick, and thought himself in danger of death? Who hathi not made resolutions in that distressing hour, and promised God to reforin? The law of these exercises forbids certain details, and prohibits the naming of my hearers: but I appeal to your consciences, and, if your consciences be asleep, I appeal to the immortal God. How many of you bave deposited your resolutions with us, and have solemnly engaged to renounce the world with all its sinful maxims? How many of you have imposed upon us by appearances of conversion, and have imposed upon yourselves too? How many of you should we have alledged as new examples of death-bed conversions, if God had not granted you a reco
you converted indeed ? Have you renounced the world and its maxims ? Ah! were we to judge, by the conduct of those who have recovered; of the state of those who are dead ..
My brethren, I dare not examine the matter, but I leave it to your meditation.
Who of you,
It is true, God's thoughts are not our thoughts; and God worketh miracles in religion as well as in nature: But yet, our God is a consuming fire. Who can assure himself that, having abused common grące, he shall obtain extraordinary assistances ?
It is true, God's thoughts are not our thoughts; and there is nothing in the holy scriptures, which empowers us to shut the gates of heaven against a dying penitent; we have no authority to tell you, that there is no more hope for you, but that you are lost without remedy: But yet, our God is a consuming fire. There are hundreds of passages in our bibles, which authorize us, what am I saying there are hundreds of passages that command us, under the penalty of suffering all the punishments that belong to the crime, not to conceal any thing from the criminal: there are hundreds of passages which empower and enjoin us to warn you, you who are fifty years of age; you, who are sixty; you, who are fourscore ; that still to put off the work of your conversion is a madness, an excess of inflexibility and indolence, which all the flames of hell can never expiate.
To conclude. This is an article, of which we, your pastors, hope to give a good account to God, however unworthy we are of his approbation.. How often have we represented the danger of your procrastinations? Ye walls of this church! were ye capable of giving evidence, we would take you to witness. But we appeal to you, ye sermoris, that have been preached in this assembly! ye shall be recollected in that great day, in which each of our hearers shall give an account of the use he hath made of
Ye consciences that have heard our directions ! ye shall bear witness. You gainsayers ! you yourselves shall bear witness, you wło, by reversing those ideas which the gospel giveth us of the mercy of God, have so often pretended to obscure those which we have endeavoured to give of his justice and vengeance ; Ile are pure from your blood, we have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God, Acts xx. 26, 27. When we stand at his tribunal, and, under a sense of the weakness with which our ministry was accompanied, say to him, Enter not into judgment with thy servants, O Lord! Psal. cxliii. 2. Each of us will venture to add, with a view to the importunity that had been used to prevail with you to improve your precious moments,
have preached righteousness in the great congregation ;
lo, I have not refrained my lips; O Lord, thou knowest. With-hold not thou thy tender mercies from me O Lord, Psal. xl. 9, 11. I have spent my strength for nought and in vain; yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God, Isa. xlix. 4.
O! may God animate us with more noble motives ! God grant, not that the eternal misery of our hearers may be the apology of our ministry: but that you may be our joy and crown in the day of Christ ! Phil, iv. 1, and i. 10. Amen.